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Is Your Dog ‘Gifted’? Here are Two Clues — According To Scientists

Border collie looking up and being a good doggie

We know all doggos can hold a special place in our lives and can even recognize multiple languages and nonsense words — but did you know that some dogs, like humans, may be considered “gifted” in the way they process information and learn? 

As explored in Vice, the latest research from Loránd University, Budapest in Hungary is shedding light on the topic of canine intelligence and expanding our insights on just how much our furry friends can understand.  

Related: 15 golden retriever characteristics that make them perfect.

Border collie playing fetch with ball

The study – part of the Genius Dog Challenge – explored the trait in border collies, and identified 21 around the world that can be qualified as “Gifted World Learners” (GWLs). While all study subjects shared many common traits, there were two specifically that stood out for the few rare “gifted” dogs: 

  • Being able to learn the names of their toys and remember them for months down the road
  • Increased playfulness

In humans, traits of “giftedness” can include:

  • Being able to concentrate and focus well on tasks
  • Being intensely curious and asking sharp questions
  • Learning very quickly
  • Having an extremely good memory
  • Being very imaginative and creative
  • Having advanced speech

Border collie lying on the floor and being a good doggie

Researchers who conducted the study identified that in dogs, specifically, giftedness relates to being very adept at learning new things, and this study (as well as future studies) may help us better understand the evolution of our canine companions. It may also help us better understand how over millenia humans have come to domesticate and socialise these animals, and the role play had in that process. 

Additionally, understanding doggie giftedness may also help shed light on the animals’ wellbeing and health. 

You may also like: Spotify for pets is the cutest thing: Here’s how to make the purrfect playlist for your cat or dog.

The study authors found out that rather than just being able to know a few words and to learn commands (discriminative stimuli for actions), they could also learn object verbal labels (names of toys), and not just a few but even hundreds! 

Researchers limited their studies to border collies because this breed is especially good at learning words, although they suspect that other breeds – particularly other working dog breeds – may also be especially adept at memorizing object verbal labels. 


Related: 10 laziest dog breeds that are perfect for small spaces.

In general, playfulness has been linked to creativity, innovation and even positive work performance in humans, and it’s possible the same personality mechanisms may be activated in our pawsome pets as well. 

See also: 8 pet toys for your pup that are eco-friendly (and fun).


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